Apr 28, 2009

Baird douses cold water on TTC contract for Thunder Bay

THUNDER BAY, ON --- April 28, 2009 --- Just hours after the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) formally approved plans to buy new rail cars from Bombardier, federal Minister of Transport John Baird appeared to douse cold water on the deal.

Baird was quoted as saying the federal government’s priority was to create jobs now, while the Bombardier deal was a 10-year contract. The Minister further implied that the $1.2 billion dollar deal, the largest transit contract in Canadian history, may not qualify for federal stimulus funding. The transit contract depends on one-third financing from the federal government.

Thunder Bay Superior-North MP Bruce Hyer immediately requested a meeting with the Transport Minister. “Because of Minister Baird’s comments, I am deeply concerned that this contract may now be in jeopardy. Many people worked for months to put this ground-breaking contract together, and if the federal government doesn’t step up to the plate to do their part the whole thing may fall apart. This would put Thunder Bay jobs at risk,” said Hyer.

Hyer is also concerned about the lack of domestic sourcing requirements from the federal government. Canada is currently the only G7 or NAFTA country that does not have domestic procurement requirements of any kind on federal capital expenditures and transfers. While Toronto mandated a 25% domestic parts and labour requirement on the deal, Hyer recently introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons called the Made in Canada Act that would mandate at least a 50% domestic requirement on all federal infrastructure spending, including transit.

“If we want to get the most out of our stimulus spending, the federal government should make sure that spending goes to create Canadian jobs, instead of jobs abroad. And there never has been a better example of a project deserving of stimulus spending than this Bombardier – TTC deal. I will do everything I can to ensure the federal government honours its obligations.” said Hyer.

The following is an editorial from NetNewsledger.com

Thunder Bay, ON -- Editorial -- "We want to create jobs now. That's a 10-year contract," states John Baird, Canada's Minister of Transport. Baird's comments pour cold water on top of the confirmation Monday that Thunder Bay's Bombardier Plant won a contract to build the new street cars for the City of Toronto.

The TTC has a June 27, 2009 deadline in place to have funding in place. Baird is suggesting that the contract may not qualify for federal stimulus funding. At issue appears to be that the jobs will be created will last too long. Gee now doesn't that make sense? A job program that will create lasting jobs isn't in the interests of a government?

The federal Conservatives seem to have a love-hate relationship with Thunder Bay. When former MP Joe Comuzzi was in office, Prime Minister Harper was in Thunder Bay to welcome the former Liberal MP to the Conservative Party. There were trips to our city by the Prime Minister, including an unannounced trip to Nipigon that likely threw Harper's security detail into a frenzy.

The Prime Minister seemed to understand that Thunder Bay and all of Northwestern Ontario needed some extra help to get back on our feet.

The contract from the Toronto Transit Commission is one of the building blocks needed to make that happen. Baird in commenting that "We want to create jobs now. That's a 10-year contract," demonstrates the kind of poorly thought out strategy that politicially will make it hard for the Conservatives to ever make political inroads in Thunder Bay.

In a way, it is also, perhaps an admission that the entire economic stimulus package, putting Canada back into deficit is not really going to have any long-term benefits. Maybe that is why in an era where the focus has been on building a "knowledge-based economy" and building for the future has been replaced by the term "shovel-ready projects".

Perhaps it suggests that too many politicians are in the deep end of the leadership pool buy have not yet taken swimming lessons.

It will now be up to Thunder Bay's two NDP MPs, our two Liberal MPPs, our civic leaders and our residents to send the message to the Prime Minister on just how important this effort really is to Thunder Bay.

A few months back, NetNewsledger.com reported that fewer Canadians than ever were writing the Prime Minister. Perhaps right now, from Thunder Bay, that face offers an opportunity.

Canadians can write the Prime Minister, or any MP for that matter postage free.

My suggestion is that instead of emails, that people in Thunder Bay pick up a pen and paper and send a note expressing to the Prime Minister just how important this issue is to our city.

Here is the address:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Perhaps a few hundred hand-written letters will convince the Prime Minister that the time to act is right now. If you agree, share this with your friends. The time to act is right now. Let's go Thunder Bay!

James Murray
News Director

Baird douses cold water TTC contract for Thunder Bay.

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